IONIA — In a search conducted primarily to stay local while remaining cost efficient, the Ionia County Sheriff’s Office has reached out to a nearby pharmacy to serve as its primary prescription provider for jail inmates at the Ionia County Jail.
Just one day into a two-year contract, the sheriff’s office is now receiving pharmacy services from Meijer Inc., specifically from the Meijer pharmacy located south of Ionia in Berlin Township.
According to Ionia County Sheriff Dale Miller, when the previous contract with Walmart Inc. was nearing expiration, the department made the decision to search for competitive prices from other nearby pharmacies.
“There’s a lot of sources that want to contract with correctional facilities to fulfill prescription needs,” he said. “We looked at several different vendors, different businesses and even some mail-order services that we’ve used in the past, but in the end, we felt most comfortable with Meijer.”
Miller said Walmart offered reliable and fair services, but Meijer’s prices of major medications used at the jail were cheaper
Miller added that a drive-thru pharmacy at the Meijer location helped to make the switch an easier choice.
“For inmates who don’t have insurance, that cost falls on the county and it’s a rather large expense,” he said. “Meijer’s costs were better for us. The location and overall pricing was better than what we were seeing in the past.”
Miller said the jail can house anywhere from 120 to 150 inmates at one time, making the need for speedy pickups of prescriptions a priority.
According to Miller, each inmate who may require prescription medications is evaluated by the jail’s staff doctor, who determines if a prescription is a necessity during their incarceration.
“There are a lot of health-type needs and medications that people need,” he said. “We either assist them with their prescription arrangements or, if they don’t have insurance, we get them filled for them, as we are required to do by law.”
Miller said the department assists inmates with prescriptions for serious medical conditions that may require drugs such as antibiotics, as opposed to an inmate who may request medication to assist with falling asleep, which would likely be denied.
According to Ionia County Jail Administrator Mark Jones, sending officers through the pickup window saves “a great deal of time” for each officer, as opposed to having to walk into a store or competing pharmacy.
With the Meijer pharmacy located only three miles south of the jail, it takes officers very little time to drive to the pharmacy and pick up medications through the drive-thru window.
“It’s a huge benefit,” he said. “It does take time to get out there and then sign for the medications. Today was our first day with Meijer and our nurse said things went very smoothly.”
Jones said the department communicated through Meijer’s corporate office in Walker to arrange the two-year contract, which was approved by the Ionia County Commissioners on March 11.
“We went back and forth a little bit, but Meijer ended up being great to work with,” he said. “We’re saving a little bit of money with them, it was right up our alley. Walmart had good prices to start with when we signed on with them in 2009, but Meijer offers better prices today.”
Jones added that Meijer also offers rebates on certain prescriptions and was already providing some antibiotics for free, which helped in the decision-making process.